Posts Tagged ‘National Football League’

Welcome to Super Bowl Week – Richard Sherman

January 28, 2014

“I don’t hate it enough not to love it.” So said a wag about professional football earlier in the 2013-2014 National Football League (NFL) season. The remark followed a barrage of stories about concussions and the news broke of murder charges against one time New England Patriots’ tight end Aaron Hernandez. The statement well expresses the love/hate relationship the thinking NFL fan (such as this writer) has with the sport. It features many of the world’s greatest athletes in a brilliantly marketed display of imponderable skill and sometimes frightening violence. On the field and off its young stars often behave as rich, absurdly privileged athletes who put their health at stake for their livelihood are wont to do. It’s not always pretty.

The incidence of concussions and the severity of other injuries underscores a fundamental truth about the NFL: if you play, you will get hurt.  Those of us who watch the NFL regularly live with an uneasy contradiction. We enjoy a brutal game which can inflict permanent physical and mental damage on its participants.

The NFL is far and away America’s most popular professional sport. Major League Baseball still lays claim to the moniker of being “America’s pastime,” but audiences for the NFL swamp that of both Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Basketball Association (NBA). In the United States, the National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Soccer (MLS) are sideshows in comparison.

On the eve of Super Bowl week, one name has cut through all the noise and chatter about the NFL for football fan and non-football fan alike: Richard Sherman.

A week ago, Sherman made an extraordinarily athletic and exquisitely timed deflection to break up what would have been a last gasp, game-winning pass from the San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick to his receiver Michael Crabtree. Watching that play in slow motion is like watching the athlete as Nureyev. With the game on the line, Sherman elevated himself far off the ground while running at full speed and artfully raised one hand to deflect the ball away from Crabtree and into the hands of Sherman’s teammate for a game winning interception. Sherman made a breathtakingly superb play. But the real drama was yet to come. Sherman, to use the vernacular, proceeded to go off on prime time TV. First he made a choke sign with his hands around his neck while glowering at Kaepernick the San Francisco star who had just been victimized – not by his own bad play, but by a superior one from Sherman. Sherman then visibly taunted a disconsolate Crabtree slapping him on the bum and screaming into the ear hole of his helmet. In return, Sherman received a poke in the face-mask from Crabtree. Sherman was penalized for his taunt, but with 22 seconds remaining on the clock, all his Seattle Seahawks needed to do was run out the clock to victory and a berth in the Super Bowl.

Things took a bizarre turn when the game ended. FOX television had angled to interview Sherman live on the field before the players returned to their dressing rooms. The play-by-play announcers introduced broadcaster Erin Andrews standing by in a mêlée of players, team officials and camera people with a dreadlocked, helmetless Sherman for his instant post-game comments. Instead of humbly thanking the lord and his teammates in the well rehearsed and terminally boring patter practised by many professional athletes, Sherman bellowed that he was the best defender in the NFL, that the 49ers were stupid to challenge him and that Crabtree was a chump who got what he deserved. A visibly shaken Ms. Andrews stepped back from the voluble Mr. Sherman and gave the spotlight back to the lads upstairs. It was extraordinary unscripted television. For what it’s worth, Sherman is African American. Ms. Andrews is Caucasian and considerably smaller. In their brief interview, Sherman appeared almost deranged, extremely angry, arrogant and, frankly, more than a little frightening. His appearance immediately sparked a firestorm in the Twittersphere and about 72 hours of blanket coverage in sports and news coverage across the United States, Canada and beyond.

Hours later Sherman penned “For Those Who Think I’m A Thug or Worse…” an article for si.com, the hugely popular Sports Illustrated website. Sherman has been an occasional si.com contributor throughout the season. A calm, reflective Sherman explained his actions as part of the heat of the game, “To those who would call me a thug or worse because I show passion on a football field—don’t judge a person’s character by what they do between the lines. Judge a man by what he does off the field, what he does for his community, what he does for his family.” The next day, Sherman held court in a press conference. He was rational, articulate and basically non-contrite. In contrast to his outburst with the unfortunate Andrews, Sherman exhibited some warmth and considerable intelligence. In sum, this is one complex and often extremely media savvy dude. I suspect he will have the charm offensive in full gear on media day prior to the Super Bowl.

I say thanks to Richard Sherman. He gave us a pull-back-the-curtains-on-the-Wizard glimpse into the NFL. It’s a tough game played by very tough men. However distasteful his triumphal, adrenaline stoked, macho outburst to Andrews was, it’s refreshing that he did not merely fall on his sword afterward in a pathetic, well-rehearsed apology. Sherman said in effect, ‘it’s all part of the game, man – play on!’ By accounts of those who work with him, including Peter King, Sherman’s editor at si.com and a justifiably respected dean of football writers, Sherman actually is an exceptionally bright young man who happens to be a great football player.

Off the field, management of NFL teams, the players themselves and television networks generally manage to present an image of fine young men that’s often at odds with the realities of a brutal, extravagantly financed game. Not all its athletes are stellar citizens. Imagine that. Whatever Sherman’s crimes are, surely they pale in comparison to other events surrounding the NFL this season. The aforementioned Hernandez stands accused of murder. Days prior to the Seahawks’ victory over the 49ers, former star defensive back and broadcaster Darren Sharper was arrested in Los Angeles on suspicion of rape. Reports state that New Orleans police are also investigating Sharper for sexual assault.

Oliver Stone’s feature film Any Given Sunday as well as the feature and series Friday Night Lights from producer/director Peter Berg illuminate the realities of football as an essential aspect of deep America from dusty high school fields in Texas to the professional gridiron. In his recent outburst Richard Sherman gave us a strong dose of the raw reality behind the usual NFL marketing and spin.

– This article was originally published by The Journal of Wild Culture. –

http://www.wildculture.com/article/richard-sherman-being-himself/1357

 

Dome Ball

January 22, 2010

This Sunday the National Football League will feature two championship games played indoors for the first time in its history.  Yecccchhhhh!

In Indianapolis, the Colts will host the New York Jets; a few hours later the Saints of New Orleans will welcome the Minnesota Vikings. Both stadiums are antiseptic, over sized monstrosities better suited for truck rallies than football.

The spectacle of playing outdoors on actual grass (or ‘frozen tundra’), no matter what the weather has been sacrificed to a high-speed, pass dominated arena ball that, to my eye, looks false. In addition, as a filmmaker, I find the lighting of indoors football on television very unattractive. I know I am no doubt out of step with the times – in the era of video games, the NFL’s new indoor look might not dismay many fans. However, I wonder if the NFL does not risk diluting its product by limiting the range of tactical options that dealing with unpredictable nature demands.

There was a moment in the only good playoff game last week (played outdoors in San Diego) where you could see the wind move a shock of a hair on the head of a concerned Chargers’ coach Norv Turner.  Having just watched parts of a dreadful game from the Garbage Bag Dome of Minneapolis, it took me a moment to even realize it was the wind!  Perhaps the elements might have contributed to San Diego’s kicker missing three field goals that sealed his team’s fate at the hands of the surprising Jets.

btw The Colts will decisively terminate the Jets’ dreams and rattle the amazing rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. And dog willing, the Saints will end the season of the anti-Packer Favre.

The Vindication of Thompson & McCarthy

December 28, 2009

So I was wrong. Again.

Slightly less than two months ago (on this very site), I wrote off my beloved Green Bay Packers after an inexplicable loss to the execrable Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Since then, the Pack has been quite arguably the best team in the National Football League posting six victories against one last-play-of-the-game loss to last year’s World Champions. Yesterday, with a game remaining on the regular schedule, Green Bay clinched a playoff berth.

Many commentators (including this one) had argued that Green Bay VP Ted Thompson and Coach Mike McCarthy were mistaken in trading Brett Favre last year. In early November, with Favre leading the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC North lead and the Packers languishing in mediocrity, it appeared that 2008’s gamble on young quarterback Aaron Rodgers had backfired. Now…not so much. Yesterday, in addition to clinching a playoff spot, young Mr. Rodgers became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons as a starter. The kid is a legitimate superstar.

Meanwhile Brett Favre was last seen arguing with his coach on the sidelines and the Vikings have lost two of their last three games. Stay tuned. Green Bay fans could be in for a very special post-season.

Buck Me Frettly

November 3, 2009

OK . I admit it. The Green Bay Packers made a grave mistake in not welcoming their grand diva Brett Favre back on whatever terms he wanted in August 2008. True confession time – I’ve been a Packer fan since I was a boy. In that point of a previous millennium, ‘The Pack’, under legendary coach Vince Lombardi was defeating the likes of the New York Giants for NFL championships. Last summmer I agreed with Packer management who did not guarantee Favre his starter’s job after a bizarrre five month on-off-on-and off again dalliance with retirement.

Yesterday, Favre sliced and diced his former team on its own turf, Lambeau Field. Combine yesterday’s performance with a game in Minnesota last month and Favre hurled seven touchdown passes in two Viking victories over the Packers. OUCH!!

The Packers’ choice to lead their team, Aaron Rodgers played another terribly   inconsistent, sometimes flashy, but ultimately losing game.  Rodgers, as if haunted by Favre interceptions of the past, repeatedly held on to the ball too long allowing the Vikings to sack him. The fourty year old Favre meanwhile gamboled about like a teenager while showing arm strength and accuracy easily the match of his glory years with the Packers. Burnt out? Finished? Prone to giveaways? Uh…not so much.

The Vikings just may win the NFC championship and head to the Super Bowl under a rejuvenated Favre. Packer GM Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy were one game from The Big Show with Favre as QB in the 2007 season. If Favre was still their starter today, they would have a stronger team. The moral of this story appears to be that sometimes superstars, even when they behave erratically, must be indulged.